Virtual Book Club- Boneshaker

Up until recently, there was nowhere that I could go geek-out with other literati, and I definitely didn't have a book club in the sleepy beach town where I live.  So, I thought that once a month I would host a virtual book club here at The Spinecracker, somewhere we can share thoughts and argue about plots.  So grab a cocktail and join in at your leisure. 

There is also a giveaway happening here.  The amazing Cherie Priest has been so kind to offer up a signed copy of Dreadnought, the latest release from her Clockwork Century series, to one lucky commenter.  Here's how that'll work:

  • Each comment is an entry
  • If you follow this site that's an extra entry
  • Contest ends on Sunday Nov 7th at midnight (so feel free to contribute late)
  • US & Canada only
  • Winner will be announced here Monday, Nov 8th

I'm so excited to be discussing Boneshaker this month, what a visual feast that was! I have a couple thoughts to start the ball rolling on the discussion, but please jump in with anything that you're curious about.

*All that I ask is that the comments remain respectful to the author's work and to each other

Q: There were so many mysteries to solve. Minnericht, the blight, the dreadnought, Mynard. I'm curious, what in your opinion was the true mystery of the story.

Q: I found it really hard to classify the surviving people in the walled city.   Were they cowards, hiding away from their fears or are they actually a stronger lot for fighting tooth and nail to survive in the city they once loved.

Q: Again, I found pinpointing the intended climax of the story challenging...in a great way.  There is the obvious one of Briar and Zeke's reuniting, but the coup against Dr. Minnericht's was another, and yet Briar and Zeke actually getting out of the city was another.   What did you think was the climax?


  1. There where a few mysteries for me in this book. The one that really drew me into the story was wanting to know about the Boneshaker and Briar's husband Blue. I wanted to know more about what happened. I really enjoyed the steampunk idea here.

    The other mystery was to see if Briar would ever find her son. And if they would be able to tell each other what they needed to know. And that they do care for each other. It seemed there was a lot of 'family' issues touched on here and that it might help to talk with your kids, and vise versa.

  2. Melissa: I found it a little infuriating/mysterious about the Boneshaker and Blue as well. I just kept saying "Tell me what happened, tell me why he's such a bastard, tell me how she knows he's dead"

  3. All sounds great here!

    Now onto the people in the city...

    Hmmm, I don't know if I would say they were cowards, but I don't know if they are heros either. I think they are people who could or didn't want to give up the life they had. But they found a new life to create here. They made what they wanted instead of living as others are. But they seemed to become a close net group as well. They worked together to keep what little they had and help each other out.

    This was like a whole new little world here. They really seemed to know there was a bad person in charge and crazy things happening here. So they seemed to be fighting for it.

  4. Oh, I wanted to know so badly as well. I wanted to know more about him. Why she hated him so and was so infuriated with him. I was a little curious, for short bit, that Blue was the bad guy. But Briar was admit that Blue was dead, I wondered if she had done the dead herself ~ killing him. But I very desperately wanted to know. I was starting to get irritated with every time I thought I would find out.. and then didn't.

  5. I have to mention the Zombies in this world too. I will start with saying I am not a zombie reader. For what ever reason I don't like reading zombies. But these ones didn't bother me at all. I was a little curious as to why certain people where affected and others where not. But being the time the book was set in they don't have the medical advances to really test that and find out why.

    But these zombies were there and a predator at times, but they were nothing more than someone chasing other people. Oh they had there zombie feel but they weren't that individual bad guy (or group) that was searching only to eat all people. Though they where there and did that, it wasn't centered around them. I actually felt bad for them. Especially when we got the story of the one in the store. (I think store)

  6. Melissa: I'm glad i wasn't the only conflicted person on that front. One minute i would think that these people are running from responsibilities of the current age, and in the same breath I would say "but they're so brave to stick together and try to reclaim the place they once loved"

    I love when characters are so multi-faceted

  7. Yes. These characters struck me as both. There would be so much more for them out side the walls. And I couldn't understand why they would stay inside such destruction. Then I understood the connections they had here and why they didn't want to leave. I have to say Cherie did a wonderful job of leaving this to your view, but giving both sides of it as well.

  8. I was relieved when my expectations were destroyed in the later parts of the book - I expected Briar was bluffing about knowing he was dead, and of course I did not expect the manner of his death.

    It was a great moment, though, because real people don't always act perfectly, and those haunting experiences really inform the rest of the book.

    I felt the climax really happened when they were leaving the compound. Getting out of the city definitely seemed like details that were "wrapped up".

  9. Melissa: You know it's funny, I say I'm not a huge zombie fan, but every time they pop up in a story I think "that was pretty rad. Why do i think i don't like them?" :D

    for me, the zombies really acted as the suspense. They hurried the pace, and became this always present scare-tactic. I love their part of the book.

    I did appreciate that at the end Briar said something about the fact that they were all humans once and they deserved better than to run around such as they did.

    These zombies kind of make me want to try a zombie book full-out :)

  10. ATDT: I was floored when we discovered she in fact killed Blue, And I love hoe you put it " real people dont always act perfectly" I think that speaks great volumes to all the characters in the book!

    I think i agree with you, everything after Briar and Zeke re-unite until they actually get on the airship is the climax.

  11. It's been a while since I read it, but I felt that the Third Act and the endgame for any of the climaxes came quickly. When Briar was taken into Minnericht's compound, it still felt like it was still the middle of the story. But while she's there, the compound is invaded by the others and zombies, almost in a big James Bond-like assault on the villain's lair. While fun, it seemed to happen suddenly. She was captured and there, then suddenly all hell is breaking loose and things were ending. It didn't feel like things led up to that, she was just there and then the novel started ending.

    I think the novel climaxed at the coup and death of Minnericht's death. Escaping the city felt more of tying up loose ends. While the reveal of Blue's demise was a shocking reveal, by that point it felt like just a loose end. I felt the conflicts were really resolved in the coup and that was the climax.

    I also agree that while the zombies were a nice addition, they served mostly as a device to limit street movement and make characters move around, rather than staying in one place. This of course is a useful thing for the author to have, but I think there should have been more zombie page-time or a little more about their malady. Because they are more of a device, they could have been wolves, generic monsters, aliens, or anything really.

  12. Damned Lies: Love your handle btw.

    The zombies functioned as suspense for me. They kept the tensions high, and suited that purpose. If you think about it, nothing else did. They weren't chased by the doctor nor his "muscle"... and for that I think the zombies were invaluable.

    And I do agree that I was slightly let down with the quickness of the final act. I thought for sure that because of the illusion she was giving that Briar and Zeke's stories were aligned, when they were actually about a day apart, I thought for sure that would come into play somehow. i.e. we get some foreshadowing on someone's POV and then you think how that might be effecting the other person's story. does that make sense?

  13. Damned Lies, I have to agree with you. For me as well the climax was while at the compound and finding out about Blue and the Boneshaker. That was what I really wanted to know and all the major action in one place.

    The leaving of the city was a tie up to a neat and clean ending.

    The zombies where great to remove the above ground access, but I also never new when or where they where going to show up. There where times I wondered how they got to the place or how was directing them there. But, They where a nice extra diversion.

  14. I really was surprised that Zeke had handled the news of his father The truth I guess I should say. I would have thought if it wasn't for the journey through the city and with Minnerchit that he would not have handled it as well. I think the big bad guy trying to be like his dad helped make the news better.

    But I would have thought he would have reacted a little differently. But he also realized a lot about his mother he did not know.

  15. Melissa: You know, I think I didn't worry about Zeke's reaction, or the lack there of, due to the time in which it was set. I think that you're right, his journey through the walled city turned him into the man he was searching for. Great point!

  16. For me, the true mystery of Boneshaker is the one of the emotional human heart. Throughout the course of the novel we are presented with characters in which their true motivations are kept just a description away from our grasp. It is the type of open ended ambiguity that allows the reader to color in those spaces with their experiences and correlations. The best characters in any literature are the ones that are defined, but not wholly detailed. I could cite almost all the characters in Boneshaker as they all have that veiled idea of the heart. I will offer one example. For instance, the journalist Hale; we know that he is seeking “the truth” as to what became of Leviticus Blue and his Boneshaker. Yet we do not know his motivation as to why he is compelled to take on the endeavor. The reader gets close at the end of the novel, but most appropriately; the story ends with a writer scribbling in the rain. Life—as with emotions takes place in the space between raindrops.

    The city dwellers were/are tenacious. Whatever problems plagued them outside or before the wall went up, they were ephemeral or metaphorical. Inside the wall and underground their lives became tactile and the problems they had to face were as rotten as those on the outside, the only difference being inside the wall the rotting problems had a pretty large appetite for entrails.

    Even the deserter Rudy didn’t play as a coward or weak individual for me. Say what you want about his addiction to the sap and his urge to do anything to get his next fix, he existed inside the soon-to-be-overflowing-soup-bowl of Walled Seattle. He braved the horrors and suffered through the constant threat of the Blight, failing mask seals, The Rotters, angry knife throwing Native American Princesses and the other multitude of environmental hazards that existed for him. He is perhaps the tragic figure of Boneshaker; where the problem within and without the walled city collided together to corrupt a perhaps once redeemable soul.

    The climax of the novel—and we know there are many—I feel happens as Minnericht gets the proper talking to from his mother in law. Once Angeline pulls back the curtain on Minnericht it set up one of the most fulfilling emotional climaxes I have read in literature. To have her be the one to end Joe Foster made the most sense. The pauper Prince gets dethroned and the citizenry reacts accordingly.

    After Foster falls, the rest of the novel does a wonderful job in resolving the arcs of the two protagonists. As much as I would have liked to have had Zeke’s perspective while he was in the ancestral home for the first time, I am glad the Priest decided to hold back and keep up with Briar. Another one of those moments where the reader is left to intuit how Zeke’s mind processes how his father died.

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  20. Revi: So many great analytical points I'm not sure where to begin.
    I'm enjoying the way you've broken down 'Boneshaker' like the great american novel is can truly represent.

    I love that the climax for you is the princess' long awaiting dose of justice. Her and Jeramiah's were my favorite characters from the book. They represented such strength. I'd be curious to know who was your favorite character.

    I'm surprised that Rudy effected you so. To me he functioned as an example of the what-if to be used for comparison against the good in all the other strong characters helping Briar. But you make such an astute argument, you've nearly urged me to read again with a fresh set of eyes.

  21. Wow. I'm really taken with the great post by Revi. Great points made there!

    I was wondering if anyone had a take on the Chinese people working the steam/air pipes. I found them interesting, but for didn't really know what they where doing, or why they were shipped there.

  22. First, apologies for the deleted by author comments, when I tried to comment originally, I had received an error message. So, I thought I had to break up the post only to find I didn’t. Again I do apologize.

    In a novel rich in characterization it is difficult for me to single out a character that I would call my favorite—it’s akin to having the proper nerve to single out a friend and claiming they are the best. Out of the cast my heart itched for two individuals—Lucy and Jeremiah. While I was reading it was difficult not to picture my mother, also an amputee (leg, not arm), as Lucy. The sarcastic wit and the nurturing energy prevailed over every scene that Lucy appeared in. I loved the spied in conversation between Lucy and Jeremiah. I just had a feeling that both of these characters didn’t enjoy back-talking but something was just gnawing at them and it had to be reconciled before they could rest. My mother is as stubborn and Lucy and as take charge. She would walk me into hell and then bust down the walls to get me back out again. If I were to cast a movie for the rest of the world to see, my mother would be Lucy and no other actresses need audition.

    Jeremiah, the animal heart of the underground. Lion hearted and armor plated, his character wasn’t written to type. He wasn’t gruff nor was his exterior (the emotional one) covering a wounded soul. He was simply a large man with an even larger heart needing to protect any all who garnered the protection of Maynard’s. Truth be told, I would be pleased if an anthology worth of stories came from those in the underground. I could spend many more pages in those murky depths and remain smiling through gritted teeth underneath my mask.

    Even with the liberties taken with history (as compared to our own timeline), the accurate usage of the Chinese laborers was a nice touch.
    Writing a story set in the late 1800’s in America and not mention the Chinese immigration boom is to miss out on one of the touchstones in this country’s evolution. In the novel they could have been implemented as simple henchmen or just characterless bodies to flush out the numbers of the Walled City but Priest did not do that of course. She presented the readers with a dichotomy: Fang and Yaozu : the voiceless and the whisperer. They split the potential of the new workforce as either being a breath of fresh air and toil tirelessly to ensure the survival of the nation and keep it aloft, or it could become an undermining cancer that would slither in and threaten to disrupt the unstable balance of the nation( I will apologize for the numerous puns I placed in that sentence). Overall I enjoy the fact that the Chinese laborers have a proper place in the novel and Clockwork series in general.

  23. Revi:
    Now it's my time to apologize to you; how dare I try and make you pick just 1 favorite when you've obviously been so enamored by all ;)

    I do love Lucy, she is forever unwavering. I didn't like that her character was twice crippled, I can't explain why it didn't resinate with me, but it felt slightly forced on her character. As all the city dwellers already face insurmountable obstacles, I didn't think additional struggles (other than emotional ones) were needed.

    I love the you've touch on Jeremiah and his armor plating, which was obviously both a physical and figurative form of protection. I was crushed when you dont discover if he survives. (somethings I just need/want spelled out for me :D) And I couldn't agree more that an anthology surrounding our city dwellers is needed... let us lean on the author a bit, shall we?

    I'm glad that you've unveiled the importance of the Chinese immigrants. I did not understand their importance and relevance in the story...I will shamefully admit that interest in history (domestic or otherwise) is only approaching me late in life.

  24. When the Chinese immigrants where first introduced in the book I was a little confused by what they where doing. But as the story went on I started to see what they where doing in the shafts for air.

    I have to say that was another great post by Revi. And thank you for the little bit of history. I really didn't relate history with the book so much when I read it earlier this year. Really gave me something to think about. Thanks!

  25. Welcome as always. I have lingered too long in just reading blogs and reviews and not commenting. There are always fine times to start, and I do believe I discovered mine.

    I do have one question though, Boneshaker--being a novel rooted in the stories people carry with them, which personal narrative that is hinted upon gave you an itch to know more. I desperately want to know Cly and his brother's tale.

  26. Well I'm delighted that you decided to brake your fast here. Your comments have been thought provoking.

    Hmm, I know she's more than merely hinted at, but I think mine would have to be the indian princess. I'm not sure if it was the fact that she struggles alone through the walled city that had me more intrigued abut her full story, or if my interests stem from the few bits of information we did get from Priest about her... wetting my whistle.

    Any chance that Cly and his brother take part in Clementine? The novella published between Boneshaker and Dreadnought?

  27. The wisps of plot that I have seen on the extremely hard to find (thanks to the limited print run) Clementine is that it focuses on other characters not yet presented. Any attempts I have made to find a copy have met with frustration (or ridiculous over pricing). If I am able to locate a source I will most certainly pass along any information I can find.

  28. Well I know that it's $2.99 on amazon kindle app... Not sure if you like using ebooks.
    I am pretty sure Clementine is based around Capt Cogg, now may be Im getting the two captains and their crews mixed up but it's that the ship Cly flew on? Again, apologies if I'm mixing things up.

  29. I am lacking when it comes to an e-reader. Although there are plans in the works...

    Cly captained the Naamah Darling. Don't feel bad with all the names floating around it is only a matter of time before they all become jumbled!

  30. Ha. Ok, thank you for not pointing and laughing, I am forever grateful :)

    Even though you don't have an ereader, you can still download the application for your phone or your computer. I mean if the print version of Clementine is truly a bear to find, this might be an option. ( i use to read on my iPhone all the time before I purchased my reader ....it's not all that bad )

  31. Revi - So glad you started chatting here. :) Jessica is a great person for having these amazing book chats. :) Look forward to chatting with you more in the future. :)

    I have the second book, Clementine, on my list as well. I am curious to see where it leads to on the east coast. (I think east coast.)

  32. Hey, your welcome. :) It is always fun doing these chats. :) Glad new people are joining in too.

  33. Melissa and Jessica, thanks for having. Here's to elevating discourse above the normal "I liked it when the thingle-hopper went splody, slplody boom!"

    And please, feel free to call me Joel.

  34. Joel, it was a pleasure chatting with you! I hope maybe you'll join one of our group discussions again soon!

    ...I can't place the quote, will you tell me where it's from?

  35. The quote is just a humorous riff on similar things I have overheard in other discussions I have been a part of.

  36. Sorry, got side tracked last night so wanted to stop by quickly her today while I'm at work. :)

    Joel, great to meet you. :) And thank you for following. I saw you stopped by yesterday. :) When you start going with the blog let us know. I will stop by and follow. :) Thank you! And look forward to chatting with you in the future.